WASHINGTON — The Air Force, hoping to stem congressional opposition to the B-2 bomber, said Tuesday that the radar-eluding aircraft outpaces 20 years of improvements in the Soviet air defense and is key to the U.S. strategic force.
"The estimate is the Soviets have invested the equivalent of over $350 billion in those defenses over the 20-year period . . . and that investment continues," the Air Force said in an 18-page report released by the ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"That very expensive array of defenses is largely ineffective against an aircraft with B-2 capabilities," the report said.
In a closed session, Air Force Secretary Donald Rice and Air Force Chief of Staff Larry Welch briefed members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the B-2, detailing the aircraft's importance to the strategic forces, its conventional capability and its role if a strategic arms reduction treaty is reached with the Soviet Union.
Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chairman of the panel, and John Warner of Virginia, its ranking Republican, released the report.
"We asked the Air Force to address the key issues of cost, flight testing and the comparable worth of the B-2 as the Congress debates the defense program," Nunn and Warner said in a one-page statement accompanying the report.